I was talking with a CEO Coach (we’ll call him “Joe”), a real-deal, legit coach who advises CEO’s of companies with annual revenues that range from $5 to $50 Million (and up). I wasn’t pitching him, but he did ask what I do, and I gave him a very brief description. He said “I don’t think any of the people I personally mentor would be interested in [branding].” This isn’t a quote, because he was very nice, but the basic vibe of it was “Isn’t it just bulls%#t?”.

It’s a fair question to ask. It has very good answers, which I’ll try to make plain here.

Why Does Brand Strategy Matter?

The real question he was asking (or that anyone asks) is: What value do I get out of it? In a lot of ways, it’s the only question people have. At the time when I talking with “Joe”, there wasn’t really time to get into a conversation about (and it wasn’t really the place for it, either). But if I were talking with him today, I’d start with this:

You want to know what value you get out of this, right — what’s in it for you? What I do is to help your target audience to understand that you offer the solution that they want and need, which attracts and retains your ideal customers. Put another way: If I could get more of your best kind of customers through your doors, would you find value in that?

Because truly, this is what good Brand Strategy does, which is why some of the most successful companies in the world take great care in crafting their brand, and I think we intuitively understand this if we think about it for moment. The problem we have sometimes is with the word “Brand” or “Branding” is that we think it means having a nice logo. It doesn’t. Having a nice logo is certainly a good thing, and a part of visual Brand Identity, but it isn’t your brand.

What is Your “Brand”?

Succinctly, your brand is what other people think of when they think of you. We all do this. We all have associations – good and bad — about the brands we interact with on a daily basis. Starbucks. McDonalds. Coca-Cola. Apple. Amazon. Google. Facebook. Ford.

In some ways, it’s easiest to relate to B2C consumer-facing brands that we interact with as consumers ourselves. But there’s a strong argument that B2B brand is even more important, because the downside of a cup of coffee that doesn’t work for me isn’t as important as the potential downside of a mission-critical business purchase that ends up going wrong. You don’t want to screw up in front the boss – or if you’re the boss, in front of your Board or shareholders, or waste a bunch of money on something no one will use.

Our friend “Joe” actually provided an example, even though he wasn’t aware that’s what he was doing at the time. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software came up, and he mentioned that he didn’t love Salesforce.com (sorry, guys), but that he LOVED LessAnnoyingCRM.com (yes, this is free advertising for them. You’re welcome.)

What does this have to do with branding, you ask?

So glad you did!

Remember, branding is what other people think about you. Salesforce (a B2B service company) is arguably the “big dog” in CRM, SFA, online databases (you can argue Oracle or MySQL, etc for technical applications, but probably not for CRM). Their brand works for people who want best-in-class that integrates well with other best-in-class marketing software, like Pardot and Marketo. All of those softwares are expensive, costing thousands per month. Agencies and large corporations with big marketing departments probably don’t even blink at those costs. But smaller companies do. So “big dog” Salesforce’s brand actually works against them for small businesses and creates an opportunity for companies like LessAnnoyingCRM.

I actually love LessAnnoyingCRM’s name. It captures several great things in their brand all at once. They’re affordable, instead of expensive (which is annoying); it’s simple vs complex (which is annoying); your team will use it (which is one of the fears in buying any CRM). That’s their brand, their unique, unfair advantages in the marketplace. They’re the Guerrilla Warriors of CRM, taking the “big dogs” strengths and turning them into weaknesses, for their own advantage. This is what great branding does.

Take a look at their opening message: “A simple CRM built just for small businesses”. They’re not targeting the same customers that Salesforce is, and they’re using their features as a benefit for that audience, and conversely turning Salesforces features into a disadvantage for that audience. Fantastic! Articles like this is why a business like LessAnnoyingCRM is able to make an opportunity:

Branding experts like BRNDVENTURE use a developed process to help clients define what your optimal brand strategy and messaging is, through tools like Brand Positioning, which is sort of like what I outlined are the differences between Salesforce and LessAnnoyingCRM; incidentally, Brand Positioning was successfully used by Target to take business from Walmart, and forced Walmart to adjust accordingly and re-brand themselves. So, very much not “bs” though the executives at Walmart probably hated that it happened to them. We also employ tools for our clients like defining your target audience — who it is and who it isn’t, humanizing your target audience with Personas, defining your target audience’s motivations (what do they care about?), Brand Name, Brand Slogan, Brand Voice (the way that Harley-Davidson writes copy is very different than the way Honest Kids does), Brand Visuals, and even really, really nerdy stuff like Brand Archetype (Daniel-san trusted Mr. Miyagi, trust us on this one).

You have a brand. 

For better or worse, you’ve already got one. People think something when they think of you. Is your brand professionally organized, or is it haphazardly thrown together? Would you “wing it” in your sales? How about your accounting? No? If you have professionals who are expert at their skillsets do those things for you, why would you throw together your brand strategy and messaging ad hoc? Coming back to the point that successful companies craft their brand with great care, it becomes obvious that brand isn’t “bull$#t”, quite the contrary, it’s a valuable asset.

So I’d like to thank “Joe” for his great question, and the opportunity to give it good answer. Far from being a waste, it’s actually critical to your business’s success.